Is your business deluged by customer information? It’s time to think about smart software solutions to put you back in control.

Growing businesses find managing information from phones, emails, and spreadsheets increasingly difficult as their customer numbers rise.

Software which manages customer relationships (CRM) is the answer for most businesses.

CRM systems act as a manager for all sorts of stored information – contact details, the history of purchases, how customers interacted with your company and when, how they browse your website, their demographics, and interests.

These systems can also manage information about business partners and affiliate companies.

They organise information into categories to provide easy searches so you can segment your contacts list in a useful way.

That helps your business offer excellent customer support. Information is available at the touch of a button. It means customers don’t need to be passed from pillar to post until they find someone who knows about their order.

How CRMs can boost your sales

CRM systems don’t just organise your information, though. They also provide excellent opportunities for your sales team.

They allow:

  • Building email lists and assistance in email marketing – systems automate list-building and can issue reminders for people who leave unpurchased items in their shopping carts, for example.
  • Lead generation – automating leads from newsletter subscriptions, social media, phone calls, and visitors to your website.
  • Nurturing potential customers – with automatic follow-up email messages. This helps to keep prospects in your sales funnel.
  • Easy quotes and invoicing – quotes can be created and stored and turned into invoices which can be imported into your accounting systems.
  • Sales forecasting – automating projections for the long and short term.
  • Tracking orders and performance – data is attached to individual accounts for customers or staff.
  • Tracking your competitors – keeping tabs on their social media, blogs, and press releases to see what they’re up to.

So how do you choose the right CRM for your business?

There are many systems on the market, and there isn’t one perfect solution which fits all businesses. Look for a system which has these key attributes:

  • Easy to learn and use – you and your staff will need to learn and implement it.
  • Easily customisable for your business – choose a system which allows access to features you’ll need without necessarily giving you everything else you don’t.
  • Accessible via mobiles – most of us now access our systems via smartphones.
  • Good security to protect data – vital to protect your reputation and your customers’ sensitive information.
  • Cloud-based – avoid ‘on-premise’ systems which force you to access data from the location where the system is installed.
  • Integrates well with other systems – like your accounting software.
  • Developed for your niche – look for products specifically created for your sector which may have added in-built benefits.

Look out for any additional set-up fees on top of the subscription or purchase cost, or an extra cost to add more users. It’s worth asking about those issues up front.

Ask your potential CRM provider what level of support and training you’ll get, how data is backed up and how you can access it in the event of a problem.

One of the best ways of finding a good CRM is by word-of-mouth recommendation – ask your contacts what they use and if they’d recommend it.

Are you using an excellent CRM? Tell us which one you have, and why it’s so good – leave a comment below.